Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cardboard immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (In the Game)

Following the Halifax Chronicle regional issue, Canadian-based trading card company In the Game featured women’s players as part of their Going for the Gold set in 2007. As a side note, there was also a Going for the Gold set for the Canadian junior men’s hockey team.
Founded by Dr. Brian Price in 1998 (who once had the publishing rights to Parkhurst Hockey Cards), ITG helped to fuel the interest in women’s hockey cards again. Only featuring Team Canada players, Going for the Gold was a 25-card factory set (meaning it came as a complete set directly from the manufacturer) which featured Charline Labonte as card number one. Retired players France St. Louis and Stacey Wilson were also featured in the set (numbers 23 and 24). 
Inside each set, there was one randomly inserted autograph card or game jersey card. Of note, the set was unique in one regard; it marked the first time that the Canadian national women’s team’s jerseys were on game-used jersey cards.
The concept was introduced by Upper Deck in the late 1990’s for their baseball brand. Of note, Charline Labonte would be the first female hockey player that was featured on a game jersey card by Upper Deck (as part of their 1999-2000 UD Prospects set).
The following year, ITG would use the concept again as part of its O Canada set. Featuring both male and female Team Canada players, the set caught on with collectors. While these were not factory sets, it was rare to open a pack of cards without coming across at least one female player. Game-used jersey cards, along with autographed cards that featured the likes of Meghan Agosta, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser to name a few, made it a popular set.
In later years, women’s hockey players were once again given the ITG treatment. Four of Canada’s greatest female goatlenders were featured in a unique card set devoted solely to goaltenders. Between the Pipes has been produced by ITG for over a decade and features current and retierd goaltenders. The 2011 edition featured four female goaltenders in its set; Charline Labonte, Manon Rheaume, Kim St. Pierre and Sami Jo Small.
Further releases would have limited exposure for the women’s game. The 2011-12 release Canada vs. the World featured Manon Rheaume, along with the obligatory autographed insert cards. 
A 2012 release titled Canadiana was a card set devoted to Canadian celebrities. While the set comprised a handful of actors and musical performers, some cards in the set also featured athletes. Among the sporting heroes that were part of the set included Angela James, the first Canadian woman in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
To this date, no women’s players have been featured in ITG’s annual release, Heroes and Prospects. A set that mainly comprises prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft (the players are photographed in their junior hockey uniforms), there are also cards of retired players (hence the world Heroes) donning their junior uniforms.
Of note, no CWHL players have ever been featured. The set could feature at least five retired women’s players (this season, seven retired from the CWHL). With the budding league also holding an annual draft, it would be a good idea for ITG to feature the first five overall picks from the preceding CWHL Draft.
Although In the Game featured a boxed set of women’s hockey cards in 2007, no other company has ever featured a set devoted solely to women’s hockey. Considering that companies such as Fleer and Pinnacle issued WNBA cards in the late 1990’s, the thought of a women’s hockey set may one day be feasible.
The thought of a pack of cards consisting of nothing but women’s hockey players is not a reality, but would make for an interesting set to collect.

No comments:

Post a Comment